Kin of dead sex abuse victim sue Oakland Diocese under new California law

By BRIAN MELLEY | The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — After decades of dealing with the boyhood trauma of being molested by a priest, Jim Bartko sued the Roman Catholic church two years ago.

But the lawsuit was dismissed when he died four days after speaking publicly about it.

A new law has now revived his case, allowing his estate to file for damages he could have sought for his suffering if he were still alive.

Lawyers for Bartko’s children filed the lawsuit last week in Alameda County Superior Court against the Oakland Diocese for allegedly failing to prevent abuse by the former Rev. Stephen Kiesle that occurred between 1972 and 1975 at St. Joseph’s Parish in Pinole, 18 miles (29 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

“They used to call him ‘the pied piper’ because everywhere he went, the kids followed him around,” attorney Rick Simons said Tuesday of Kiesle. “He once said, ‘There wasn’t a single one I didn’t molest.’”

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Oakland said it would be inappropriate to comment at this point, but noted that Kiesle had been removed from the priesthood.

Kiesle, 74, a convicted child molester, gained worldwide attention long after he left the priesthood in 1987. The Associated Press reported in 2010 that Pope Benedict XVI — when he was then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — resisted pleas from the diocese to defrock Kiesle.

Jim Bartko speaks during a news conference announcing him as Fresno State’s new athletic director Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, in Fresno, Calif. The family of the late Bartko, who said he was molested as a child by priest Stephen Kiesle, has filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic church under a new California law that allows family members of sex abuse victims to bring lawsuits after their deaths. The family of Bartko filed the suit in January 2022 in Alameda County Superior Court against the Diocese of Oakland. (AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora, File) 

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Bartko, a longtime University of Oregon athletic department administrator, said Kiesle had molested him and his best friend during sleepovers at the church rectory when he was a boy.

He kept the secret for more than four decades, weighted down by sleeplessness and anxiety.

Because of excessive drinking, Bartko’s marriage collapsed and he lost his job as athletic director at California State University, Fresno, Simons said.

In rehab, he finally told his story to a therapist and later wrote a book about his experience called “ Boy in the Mirror.”

An emotional Bartko spoke at a news conference to announce the lawsuit in March 2020, joined at one point by the childhood friend who had been abused alongside him.

That lawsuit was filed during a three-year window allowing sex abuse cases to be brought long after the deadline to bring such claims had expired.

Four days later, Bartko, 54, collapsed while after working out in Oregon, and died of a hemorrhage due to cirrhosis.

Kiesle was convicted of lewd conduct in 1978 for tying up and molesting two boys and sentenced to three years probation. He was sentenced to …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News

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